White House Places Focus On Girls, Women In STEM

At the White House Science Fair on May 27, President Barack Obama will focus on girls and women achievers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions.

The president has said that the science fair is one of his favorite yearly events. He helped to start up the marshmallow cannon and fired it across the East Room in 2012. He later asked the marshmallow cannon’s mastermind, Joey Hudy, to come to the 2014 State of the Union address as his personal guest. Last year. Obama rode on a stationary bike that had a pedal-powered water filtration system. Science stars such as Bill Nye, The Science Guy, and LeVar Burton from Star Trek have, in recent years, attended and gave the fair a bit of star quality, writes Oliver Knox for Yahoo News.

While Democrats center on women voters, this year the White House Science Fair will put the spotlight on girls, who do not show up as often as boys in scientific fields. “Women in STEM: A Gender Gap to Innovation”, which is a 2011 Commerce Department report, discovered that only 24% of scientists and engineers are female, writes Kristen Lee for the White House Blog. The wide chasm is partially due tofewer women studying STEM subjects in college, and quite a few women who do study them get jobs in non-STEM fields,  a 2012 White House study stated. David Jackson for USA Today wrote:

“With students from a broad range of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) competitions, this year’s Fair will include a specific focus on girls and women who are excelling in STEM and inspiring the next generation with their work,” said a White House blog post.

Programs have been started to inspire STEM education to grow. The STEM programs were also formulated to lure and keep more girls and women in STEM fields, writes Jackson. Obama’s $4.35 billion “Race to the Top” program, which started with the 2009 economic stimulus package, gives education grants to states, with extra incentives to assist underrepresented groups in STEM subjects, including girls and women.

Politifact, an independent fact-checking website, has investigated the effect of the STEM program and found that Obama has kept his campaign promise of bringing more students into the science and math fields, says Knox.

State to state scores make it known that there is still great room for improvement. Funding cuts have shattered programs in government supported research and science education. However, Obama has pressed the point that the US cannot afford to let other countries to pull ahead in STEM, writes Knox.

Obama started the White House Science Fair in 2009. His idea came from the presidential tradition of meeting with championship sports teams.

“If you win the NCAA championship, you come to the White House. Well, if you’re a young person and you’ve produced the best experiment or design, the best hardware or software, you ought to be recognized for that achievement, too,” he said.